Thoughts on Mentorship: Reaching Out vs Building a Relationship


Been doing some reading on ways to approach people that you want to be your mentor, and I’m starting to learn that asking people is not easy.

In fact, its probably one of the hardest things to do, to turn someone who is a stranger, and probably with a lot of high responsibilities, into a friend and a mentor. Because, when you come down to it, there is a very fundamental difference between reaching out to someone, and establishing a long term relationship. Relationships take trust, and that’s not always something you can build very fast. In fact, you have to prove it, you have to earn it.

To say it in a different way, it is easy to get airtime with someone once. All you have to do is ask. The trick is be interesting enough for them to talk to you again.

My backdrop to this is reaching out to Andrew Hessel, who teaches the biotechnology track at SU. One of  my goals is to be able to work as a teaching fellow for the biotechnology track at SU over this summer, and to do that I’m trying to talk to as many people in positions of influence as possible. The other goal is to find someone in the biotechnology/entrepreneurship field to be my mentor.

This post, and a series of other ones following this, will focus on various hypothesis I have about how to make this work, how to develop a relationship with someone that you don’t really know. We’ll see if I’m successful or not haha. But in any case, I can say that this is extremely interesting, and I’m glad to be embarking on this new road.

Hypothesis One: You have to generate/demonstrate value. In social media world, it means having something to back it up.

Hypothesis Two: You should be articulate about what you want, and why you want to do it, but maybe not in the reaching out email. Instead, put it elsewhere, where it is visible, and reference it. Maybe try to use social media to push it.

Next post will be a little manifesto, and more updates from the front. 🙂


<a href="http://dreamchamps.com/what-contacting-tony-schwartz-taught-me-about-cold-email-outreach.


Lesson: 3 rules to follow for emailing:

1. keep it short.

2. include an ask. What is an ask?*

3. make sure that the ask was something that the other person could respond to in one or two sentences (so lubricate, lessen friction)

Bonus lesson:

Dreamchamps’ reaching out worked because she had attached Tony Schwartz twitter handle on Monday (she sent it out on Friday) and he had read her blog post, and why she wanted to do with the ask.

*What is an ask? An ask is a request for an action or favor. While it can feel hard to ask something of someone with such valuable time and expertise, it is truly the only way they can help you. And trust me, if they’ve taken time out of their day to talk with you, they want to help you as best they can.- Dream Champs




Letter from PastMe


What an odd feeling, to get an email from the past that you wrote, and have no recollection typing the words. Its almost new, but then that’s you on the other side, you who are writing this thing, to be read by your future consciousness.

It was a great letter too. I am really proud of it, and want to share it, regardless of whether past me liked it or not. Here it is:


Dear FutureMe,

Hope you are smiling while you are reading this now. The long distance relationship that PastMe was so excited and optimistic about seems to have taken a turn of the downer- and I’ll be damned if i miss this chance to skip away from my essay writing and complain about this to the only person who I know would care. Which is not true, but figures into the dynamic, too.

So the email that catalyzed the whole thing (but not really- it was just the capstone on the mountaintop that had been building for a while) was that Shaina tells me she does not have time to miss me anymore, and that she feels guilty about this, and wonders if I could exculpate her by saying that is is perfectly okay.

The result was the Wallacian esque scenario in which videophones suddenly rob people of the illusion given by the telephone- that people on the other end are actually paying you attention. In this case, it is the case that Shaina was actually thinking about or missing me when I occasioned to think about her. The scenario now, is that instead of deriving comfort from the assumption, I feel the bitter sting of loneliness, of denial, of a loss of connection.

The realm of human connection is like geography, and the people that we really know, care about, are the like mountains that link us together.

The chief destructive result of this whole shindig is the fact that I feel completely and utterly alone- worse off than had this not happened at all. I don’t see any visible clear solutions to this either- consequential tunnel vision as a result of a shrinking of borders, as austerity measures. The depression of the homeless, of that i am quite familiar with

But this email is hardly just a rant and cry and moan and groan. In writing to you, as I don’t need to worry about the quality or content but just the mode of expression, I know that it would be your habit to scroll down through these lines as fast as you can, because evidence of former downcast nature is always repulsive. In fact, I do care about what you think, by the same virtue that I care about what I think- and I would hate to read an email about some former failing/etc.

So instead, let me rise up to the challenge, and as Nietzche so eloquently phrased in his book: demonstrate Courage. Courage as overcoming, as transcendence, and in writing this I know that when you read it, you will have finished this philosophy paper and overcome all of the troubles in between, and instead, will be in a fresh mire of trouble. Let this email institute a tradition for yourself, that whenever you are feeling down and small and withdrawn, to rise up and Force your way out into the light again. For this is the truth, that emotions are not totally within conscious control, but play a massive impact on enjoyment of life. Rise up to the occasion, Spread those wings. Fly

Max 10/28/10


3 Things of What Mentors look for in Mentees


Last post opened with the important of finding a good mentor. That’s usually a very hard thing to do! How do you go about finding a mentor- what is the correct dynamic, what do mentors look for in mentees?

Ethan forwarded me a really nice article: http://blogs.hbr.org/johnson/2011/10/get-the-mentoring-equation-rig.html?cm_s…

The wisdom of the article can be distilled into three simple statements:


1; Mentorship works when the following is true:

Distance to go X Drive > Effort X Relevance X Gap

Distance is potential of the mentee

Drive is how persistent, dedicated they are

Effort is how much effort is required of the mentor

Relevance is how relevant the mentor’s knowledge base is to the mentee’s interest

Gap is how much more experience the mentor has had

2. Approach the mentor with the correct frame of mind. In this example, Whitney Johnson approached a senior manager for mentorship but was rebuffed for the lack of clarity in her presentation. She recounts:

What if I’d said, for example: “Here’s what I know today, here’s what I know you know how to do, and here’s what I’d like to learn from you so that in 3-5 years I can be in senior management.”

Be clear in what you want.

3. Why do they do it? Motivation of the mentor:Human Satisfaction. So be a good person, tell the mentor that you appreciate them, that what they are doing is significant. Because if it is going well, it is.

“Largely for the pure joy of knowing that because we crossed paths, that person accomplished something they didn’t know they could.”




5 Life Lessons from David Fialkow, Founder of General Catalyst


Went to a meeting at General Catalyst Partners today with Jaap, Ben, Noah, Adrienne.Had heard about them through Ariadnes from Startlabs a few days ago, and when the invitation came up it was just too good to pass.

David Fialkow, founder, gave an amazing talk. Absolutely killer:
He had 5 points:

1.Find a mentor. Mentors are the most important group of people in your life. Your parents can only take you so far, and then you stop listening. A mentor will shape your growth, and help you grow as a person. This was mind blowing – EP should give a speech about this to preface their mentorship program.

2.In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

3.Be around people you love and trust. You don’t have to find new people, most of the time, the people that you know right now are more than enough. People who did successful startups all started in high school as best friends

4. Commit ahead of capacity to the limit. The story of 500,000, a hospital wing and Hawaian iron man.

5. Don’t fear failure. Have nothing to lose. [Steve Jobs: You are already naked.]



Watched Objectified with Jay and Charles in BH today, 190 is starting to become my third favorite place to be, the others being Jaap’s house and the Sunlab.

Objectified is a documentary that talks about the thinking process of designers, and how everything in the world we live in is designed. Also talks about the place of designers, and their role in being the thought leaders of our new manufacturing age.



movement towards me-commerce- personalized goods.

Personalized production. “back in the day we sold form- we made shapes and people bought them. Now, we are seeing that the real market is in the process, allowing people to make their own creative designs. #makerbot, DIY, crowdsourcing seems to be the way to go


Notable QUOTE (paraphrased in my own words, idea from quote):

Chris Bangle, former head designer at BMW:

“A car is not like a model on a catwalk, who shows a little here, a little there, and gets you to ogle. No, a car, once made, is static, its permanent. So instead, you have to get to the viewer’s eyes to move along the car, to create the movement.”

Hence curves, sleek lines, hence excitement of guys to cars curves like to feminine curves.

Now it all makes sense!